> Firstly, I should have begun with simply ‘lets assume God exists’.

Okay, that’s fine. If you’d rather discuss theology than ontology that’s cool if you except that your premise is based on faith and therefore is not rational.

> The plan is to consider, if there is a God, what is he like, as if there isn’t one then any conversation is about him is pointless (in the metaphysical sense anyway).

Most of my previous LJ post was comments of stereotypical attributes of a “supreme being”.

> Personally, I prefer to assume there is something out there. While we can still enjoy and promote a pointless existence

While I don’t personally feel the need for their to be a “point” to my existence there are a significant number of non believers who would ague that a person does not need an external 3rd party, never mind a supernatural one, to give them a “point”.

> I feel a lot better thinking that there is some reason beyond accident for existence as a whole.

That’s entirely fine but feelings have no influence on whether or not something is real.

> No matter what we do on Earth, it is no more than a blink of the universal eye in a tiny speck of a vast infinity. Sure, lets still do the best we can and enjoy life
> (something more precious to the individual for its rarity and briefness) but on a universal scale nothing counts more than a hill of beans in this crazy world. But hey,
> adopt whatever level of fatalism suits you best πŸ™‚

Fatalism, noun: “the doctrine that all events are subject to fate or inevitable necessity, or determined in advance in such a way that human beings cannot change them.”

In other words a synonym for predestination. While we have no objective way of knowing whether this is true or not if it is true it does indeed make life rather pointless. So, well put. πŸ™‚

> Ah, Unicorns. Well, I’d argue that in some corner of the universe they do exist. Maybe a flying spaghetti monster too. Given infinite space and infinite time the
> universe could conceivably contain anything.

The problem with an infinite universe is that since it contains everything possible it contains the inherent paradox “the universe does not exist”.

> We’re pretty sure there are none on Earth

Only pretty sure? Are you implying that there is a significant non-zero possibility of unicorns existing somewhere on Earth? πŸ™‚

> but that’s just one speck among gazillions of other specks.

True, but I’m not sure what significance you are implying by that.

> Even so, no one assumes that unicorns created reality. Most religious people take the argument that ‘the universe is proof of God’s existence because he made it’. A
> rather cyclic argument obviously, but proves that evidence depends often on where you stand.

A totally circular argument  – the bare assertion fallacy.

> You made the same mistake Grim does over Pascal’s wager by skipping ahead. Being part of a religion does mean you can’t be part of any other

Depending on which religion this may or may not be true. I’m sure that adherents of Christianity would say you can’t be a Christian and a Muslim at the same time (even if they both pray to the same Abrahamic God). However, if you are a Christian you are obviously also a Theist (which can be viewed as the simplest possible religion).

> which is my point.

I’m sorry, I’m not sure how you got from Pascal’s Wager to the ability to be a member of more than one religion at the same time.

> However, you can believe in God without being part of a religion

Semantics. I would say that believing in God makes you a Theist and therefore a member of a religion. I can accept that you may have meant a member of an “organised religion” as most people recognise them.

> and accept the common ground of pretty much all of them by not being part of any of them.
> Grim kept saying ‘no you can’t’ but I’m afraid that’s just wrong.

It’s certainly a popular personal philosophy to draw parts from many religions to construct a very personal relationship with God that avoids the “mainstream” religions. In fact I understand, but may be hideously wrong, that “finding your own path” is a large part of the whole Neo-Pagan movement. Several people on my flist would know much better than me. They can chip in at this point if they like? πŸ™‚

Obviously, picking and choosing the parts from various religions that feel best to any given individual makes not impact whatsoever on how likely it is for any of them to be true.

> Although I would amend that a little as Christ insists ‘you can only come to the father through me’. But given that Hinduism and Islam both believe in Christ and
> consider him part of their religion you need not be Christian for that.

However, you would have to admit that you can’t be a Christian and a Satanist at the same time, yes?

Obviously it is possible to stand in a place where your morals and understanding of the universe has a lot in common with those who have religious faith. I’ve grown up in a world very heavily influenced by Judaeo-Christian history so I am as good example as any.

> Christianity does have a more insistent church than most others, and I find that most atheists base their religious opinions more on Christianity than religion in
> general.

That’s because the only atheists you have met have grown up in the Western / Greek / Christian influenced area of the world.

> People do pick a religion.

Of course some people do, but the vast majority don’t. Let’s not get distracted by this point.

> Granted, many remain in the one they are ‘born into’. But you and Grim were both ‘born christian’ I expect and have chosen atheism.

Indeed, atheism not being a religion of course but otherwise true.

> In today’s climate of mixed cultures people no longer need to accept or deny one spirituality. Look how many people go to India to ‘find themselves’ for instance.

I agree. As I said above a more personal nuanced relationship with one’s concept of a deity is becoming much more common.

> I will grant you that it is possible that creating the universe is a minor trick for God and therefore could be created on a whim. Although it seems unlikely that such a
> complicated system could develop from anything but a very cunning plan to start with.

What evidence are you using to make the statement that it is “unlikely”?

> That one I’ll give you, but it seems more likely that something the size and complexity of the universe took a bit of forethought.

Ditto, “likely”?

> When it comes to questioning, you are showing Christian roots again. Even though Christ’s teachings are not always the same as Christian dogma. Plenty of religions > insist on contemplation of the divine, Islam especially. Paganism too insists you ask questions of existence.

Within limits, yes. Yet, to my knowledge, all of the ones that actually revolve around a deity would not expect you to end your contemplation in the revelation that there is no God.

> Bit lost in your point about number 4. humans are without doubt dominant on Earth.

Yes, but you also said “and even in the vastness of the universe” which seems highly unlikely. πŸ™‚

> If there is a plan, anything that controls the destiny of a planet must at least be a cog in the system. It is possible we are just a by-product, but not as likely.

On what evidence?

> I also haven’t made God an interferer, just someone with a plan.

See Deism for a Creator God who starts off the universe but never interferes.

> If I’m driving a car I don’t need to control every single gear, I just need to know each cog is doing what it is supposed to or we all crash.

And if it’s not you fix it. Either God interferes or He doesn’t – you can’t have it both ways.

From what I have read so far I have imply the following two statements – I would be grateful if you could let me know if my summary is correct:

  1. You have a belief in a Creator God. This belief is not based on rational deduction but instead from your feeling more comfortable if God exists (which is fine since we cannot prove whether God exists or not). You have not stated your belief of the base nature of such a deity (omnipresent, omnipotent, etc).
  2. You see many good statements about morality and ethics in a wide variety of major and minor organised religions. You believe that by collecting these into a worldview that feels personally comfortable you have gained from being a “part member” (my terminology) of those religions.

Let me address those in reverse order:

  1. Yes, there is a great deal to respect in some religious teachings. There is also a great deal to learn and respect from both ancient and modern secular teachings. Gathering together information from a wide variety of resources to create a personal worldview is something I consider very important for everyone to do. However, you obviously do not have to be religious to do that.
  2. There is no way on proving or refuting a non-interventionist Creator God so where He exists or not (and therefore an afterlife) is largely irrelevant unless you believe that in some way He had provided us with a set of rules that we must follow. Do you believe that is the case? Also, it would be very interesting to know what basic attributes you would assign to the God you believe in.

What I have no seen much evidence of so far is your attitude, one way or the other, to the claims of actual supernatural occurrences. If you remove the possibility of an interventionist God (i.e. one that responds to prayers) and the whole of ethics (which can be viewed aswholly secular) from most religions all that is left is rules and witness reports of supernatural events. Which of these do you believe to be true?

For example I am assuming you don’t believe that there are windows in the sky (Genesis, 7:11) or that Lord Vishnu sleeps in the coils of a giant snake in the periods between creation the world. Likewise I assume that you don’t believe in astrology, phrenology or ghosts (but I may be wrong on that last one). Which of the classic supernaturaloccurrences, resurrection for example, do you think have actually occurred?

Where I am getting around to is if (1) you do not believe in supernatural occurrences, (2) you accept that the gathering of personal ethics is an inherently secular activity, (3) that God does not respond to prayers and (4) that we cannot actually know if God exists until we die – and perhaps not even then – then you are actually only a very small number of steps away from atheism yourself. It comes down to a judgement of the probability of theexistence of a Creator God given the evidence at hand.

We can discuss that another time… πŸ™‚